Blockade chokes tea farmers in Ilam

Bimal Pradhan

Ilam, April 13:

Following the traffic blockade, tea farmers in Ilam district are facing a tough time as the supply of green tea from Ilam to the market has been severely impaired.

This is the peak season for green tea supply and this blockade is severely hurting the farmers over the last week.

Normally, the period from the last week of March to the end of April is considered to be the peak season for green tea.

But unfortunately, tea farmers have not been able to deliver any consignment from their tea estates for the last week, said Dhan Kumar Yangmali, president of Eastern Small Farmers Tea Production Association.

According to him, farmers are facing a great economic disaster.

Due to the blockade, farmers instead of plucking tea leaves and supplying them to factories, are letting the tea grow on the plants.

“We are also facing a great loss as we have no option but to close our factories due to the lack of green tealeaves,” said Hari Timilsena, manager at Ilam Tea Producers Pvt Ltd.

Last year, almost 12,000 kg of green tea leaves were processed at the factory every day during this season.

About 400 tea farmers who rely on the factory are also facing a bleak situation.

There are altogether 11 tea factories, including eight private and three government ones in service in Ilam district. Under normal circumstances, each factory processes about 12,000 kg of green tealeaves every day.

Apart from this, over 20,000 kg of green tealeaves were being supplied to Darjeeling in India through the border area every day. But right now, due to the traffic blockade, almost all tea factories have been closed down and the supply of green tealeaves even to India has been stopped totally.

“We the farmers are being sandwiched from all sides,” Lal Bahadur Subba, former District Development Committee chairman of Ilam and a tea farmer opined. On one hand, owners of tea factories cheat us by giving low prices for tealeaves, he added, on other hand, the traffic blockade is threatening our livelihood.

In past farmers were selling tealeaves for Rs 35 for per kg, but these days they are compelled to sell it for Rs 15 to Rs 16 per kg.

According to district agricultural office, tea is cultivated on 3,002 hectares of land in Ilam district, out of which 2,142 hectares belong to private enterprises. It means 71 per cent of the land is being cultivated by farmers in their individual capacity.

Despite disputes related to the quality of tea, Nepal can claim to grow better quality tea compared to other countries, according to concerned experts.

Nepali tea is found is being supplied to third countries through India. But as Nepali tea reaches third countries with the Darjeeling trademark, no identity for Nepali tea has been built, tea specialists said.